By Stephen Gallagher
MATCH OF THE ROUND: ROUND 21 – Penrith Panthers V Sydney Roosters – Friday, Centrebet Stadium. 19.45 local time, 21.45NZT.
LAST WEEK: Penrith were not up to scratch as they were put away 38-10 by Cronulla.
Sydney went to Newcastle and came away with an emphatic 28-12 result
THIS WEEK: With the Panthers sitting just outside the top eight, every game from here on in is a crucial performance for the team. This one even more so against a quality top two opposition. At home is rewarding, but only if they get the result. I expect the Clearly coached side to really show just how brutal they can be on defence because let’s face it, they need to.
Roosters have been emphatic so far this season. Making the most of every opportunity given to them. Their average players from last season are now great players. The whole side has gained maturity and experience to make this team a side that could go all the way. One step at a time though, with the battle of the west against rivals the Panthers. I don’t see the Roosters making too many dramatic changes to their game plan but I know they will be dangerous out of dummy half.
WHAT TO EXPECT: This Penrith side can score points, and have done on many occasions this season. What matters is defence. Cleary has a name for coaching sides with brilliant defence and that’s what will happen here. Penrith have to stick up a wall at the foot of the Blue Mountains and not let the Roosters cross in to their territory. If they can hold their guard heroically for eighty minutes they will have a very good chance of pulling this one as an upset to keep them on the right track for the remaining five games of the season.
Sydney are big, powerful and destructive. It’s not just one player making all this damage either, it’s the entire forward pack. Big runs and crucial periods are the gain here, and if there’s a quick play the ball to be had, it needs to happen. A dart from dummy half catching the markers unawares is key to being able to get past Penrith. If they can attack, attack, attack and do so quickly this will be a very tense and fast paced match.
THE BATTLE OF: Fastest Finishers: James Roberts probably doesn’t fancy himself as a winger, considering his preferred position is five-eighth. Though, being the nephew of a Roosters wing legend Amos, he definitely takes after his uncle.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has one helluva step on him. One so that gives many defenders a giant headache trying to mark him. Raw talent and immaculate pace, this kid has to be one of the best this season for the Roosters.
KEEP YOUR EYE ON: Lewis Brown – Whether or not he’s playing in the centres or in the second row; you know Brown will get the job done. A head down, bum up players who gives his all no matter what.
Luke O’Donnell – The wise head and elder statesman among this Sydney outfit, but he’s winding back the clock with his recent performances. Up front a big enforcer that takes as good as he gives.
These clashes always bring out the best in the two sides on display, and the Roosters sitting comfortably in second on the table, does that mean they might just slip up here? Penrith need to deliver the goods, but the Sydney are a tough team to grasp. 26-22 to the Roosters.
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